I’m sure many remember the torture that was commuting in & around NYC when the transit strike occurred. Well Londoners are now experiencing what we went through. Unfortunately for them, their experience will be arguably more painful.
As of 6pm British Standard Time, 2300 maintenance workers employed by Metronet went on strike. Metronet is the bankrupt public-private partnership which runs 9 of the 12 underground lines in London. With no workers available, Transport For London shut the 9 lines down. They will remain inactive until Friday morning. Here is more information courtesy of the NY Times:
LONDON, Sept. 3 — London’s subway network virtually shut down at the height of the rush hour this evening when 2,300 maintenance workers walked off their jobs in what they said would be a three-day strike over pensions and security.
Transportation officials then closed nine subway lines, the bulk of the system. They said it was too dangerous to keep the network going without the workers, who are responsible for maintaining and repairing tracks, signals, trains and the like. Just three lines — the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines, which are maintained by workers who belong to another union — were operating tonight.
Commuters across London left work early in a rush to make it home before 6 p.m. local time, when the strike began. Commuters arriving later found that their stations were locked or — in those stations still operating — that signs had been put up explaining that most of the lines had ceased to operate.
Transport for London, the local agency that runs the subway system, predicted that the strike would cause “massive disruptions for millions of Londoners” and urged passengers to seek “alternative routes” — a difficult proposition in a city as large, sprawling and choked with road traffic as London.
The maintenance workers say that if their demands are not met, they will remain off work for three days, and strike again for another three-day stretch next week.
Adding to the general feeling of annoyance, the mayor, Ken Livingstone, said that motorists driving into central London during business hours would still have to pay the congestion charge of £8 a day, or more than $16, during the strike.
The strike has its roots in the debacle of Metronet, the company hired to carry out a more than $34 billion, 30-year program to refurbish and modernize the old and rundown Underground system. But the cost has been spinning out of control: one estimate said that the program would be more than $4 billion over budget by 2010.
Metronet — part of a partnership that uses private-sector money to finance public projects — declared bankruptcy in July, saying it could not raise the money it needed, and went into receivership, known here as administration.
Transport for London, which is paying for the refurbishment program for the time being, maintains that mismanagement allowed costs to run out of control.
The striking workers, who are members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, are Metronet employees and are seeking job and pension security despite the demise of the company.
“We said from the start that our members were not prepared to pay for the collapse of Metronet and with their jobs and pensions, and that remains the bottom line,” Bob Crow, general secretary of the union, said in a statement.
Transport for London said that it had gone as far as it could in giving the workers what they wanted. “The administrator and Metronet have made clear that there will be no job cuts, no transfers and that pensions will be fully protected while the company is in administration,” a spokesman said, on the customary condition of anonymity.
But a spokesman for the union said the Metronet administrator’s offer was not good enough. “The period of administration could last a couple of months or a couple of years,” the spokesman said in an interview. “We haven’t had the unequivocal guarantees we’re seeking.”
Another union with 500 maintenance workers involved in the dispute, Unite, said it was satisfied with the Metronet administrator’s offer and had decided not to go on strike. A statement from Brian Harris, the union’s regional officer, also said, “We have received assurances on our members’ pensions now and into the future.”
The scary part about all of this is the possibility of yet another 3 day strike next week! I thought the strike of 2005 was bad, that strike might have nothing on this one if things stay status quo!